Chris Hodges - Passionate About God
All right, so good to see all of you here in church today. Who's glad to be in church today? Anybody, anybody? Yeah, so me too. And welcome to week number one of a brand-new series that we're starting called "My Church". And I'll tell you more about that in just a moment. I always like to just take a second and at least say hello to all of our locations. We are one church that meets all across of our region and also into Georgia as well. And so glad you guys are along for the ride.
I want to say a big hello, honestly, to the men and women in the Alabama Department of Corrections. We're still bringing our services, our full services into you, but we're not in there personally. And we cannot wait till that's opened up again. We miss you, but just know that we're praying for you every day. And for those of you who are still at home and you're taking care of yourself, by all means we want to encourage you to take care of your health. If you're concerned at all about intermingling with other people right now, we totally understand that.
If you're doing it for health reasons, stay at home. If you're doing it out of habit reasons, come back. We want to see you back in church, and so I'm giving you a personal invitation that we're grateful for online, but there's nothing like being in the room, isn't that right everybody? It's really true, so we would just love to make that invitation to you as we manage this season that we're in. You also know if you're ever, if you've been a part of our church, you know that we always start the year off with prayer. Our church was founded really on prayer.
In fact, we're celebrating our 20th anniversary in five weeks on February 7. And the reason why we have a February launch day or anniversary day is because we took the first month of the year to pray. We had 34 people who started this church 20 years ago. And this time 20 years ago, we were all gathering in my living room in Shelby County there, just and all these mailers, 63,000 mailers we were going to send out to let people know we were this new church. And we were fasting and praying and seeking God, and we really believe that our church was founded on this. And whatever you build it on, you maintain it on. We really think that this is probably one of the most important things we do.
In fact, I like to say it this way, I don't even consider myself that great of a preacher or leader or... I think honestly, I point to one great thing that we have done right is that we have declared our dependence upon God. Can I hear a good amen, everybody? And so, I want to invite you to join us in prayer. That's we will pray on Sundays in the service, Monday through Friday in our locations and online live, and on demand for 24 hours. At 6 a.m. is when we'll have that service, I'll be here. In fact, I'm going to lead the first few days 'cause I just, I feel like leading prayer. I want to lead a lot of it this year, I'm excited about it. Saturdays at 9 a.m., I just want you to come jump on the ride with us and you'll see how exciting it is to be a part of a prayer movement.
And God's given me a theme for this year, and that is "Return to Me". It's out of Joel chapter 2, where the Bible says, "'Even now,' declares the Lord, 'if you'll return to me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning,'" he says in verse 25, "I'll give you back what you lost". And for a lot of us, we have had a year of loss, we've had a year of things that were taken from us. For a lot of us, there's been more discouragement. We've had some serious issues take place. I love the fact that our God, even if we find ourselves having wandered away from him, come on y'all, he doesn't kick us to the curb. He says, "I'm going to give you a chance to come back. I'm asking you return. If you'll just return, I'll return to you". He's such a merciful and gracious God. And we're going to do that.
Now, a lot of you don't know much about fasting. We have a lot of resources on our website you can check out, but I'd like for you to be in the spirit of fasting with us as well. And there's a lot of different ways to fast. Of course, fasting means to set apart something of the world so that your focus can be more on God. So, we disconnect from the world while we connect to God at the same time. And you're going to see more clarity, trust me, it's probably one of the greatest experiences of your life. I've been fasting since I was 19 years old, and we've been doing this, of course, every year of our church.
And a lot of different ways you can do what's called a complete fast, where you're really not eating any food, you're just taking in any liquids that can keep you nourished, that's what I do. You can do what's called a selective fast, where you just choose certain foods that you're not going to have over these 21 days. Come on, like cauliflower, anybody, right? No, no, but I'm talking about maybe a Daniel fast is no meats, sweets, and bread. That's an idea. Just maybe picking some type of food group that you can do without and... or you can do what's called a partial fast, where you fast one meal of the day, maybe fasting breakfast or fasting dinnertime.
There's a lot of different ways. One that I always recommend for all of us is what I call a soul fast, so it's not necessarily food, it's the other things that we're taking into our minds and our hearts. And I'm talking about like media, and social media, and all this stuff that we kind of feed our minds with. A lot of us, it'd do us a lot of good if we just took a 21-day social media break, get your face out of Facebook and put it in the real book. Come on, somebody, right? And just maybe pick something, maybe you're not going to watch movies or listen to secular music. Pick something that you're going to separate yourself from and watch God move in your life.
And all of us, come on, if these holidays do anything, I don't know if these... does this do this to you? I always put on a few pounds. In fact, the people in the front row at any time could lose their life 'cause this button's very close of letting go of itself. I mean, all right? But it's not, fasting is not a diet. You know, it's not a diet, it's something much more than that. In fact, a diet changes the way you look, a fast changes the way you see. It'll change your perspective, it'll change your focus, and God will use it in a great way.
So, we're inviting you to be a part of that. Today is week number one of a series that we're doing leading up to our 20th anniversary of the church. And we have a celebration on February 7 that we are planning for you that you do not want to miss. We have some things we're going to give you to celebrate, it's going to be fantastic. We have some guests coming in. But the Lord's laid a series on my heart that is based out of Matthew chapter 16, where Jesus said, "I will build," say the words and yell it out loud, "I will build my church". I like that he didn't say, "I will build the church". He takes it very personal. Christianity is not about Christians, it's about the gathering of Christians. Christianity is a group of people, it is the church.
Jesus is coming back for the church and he says, "And I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against that church". He loves his church. He takes it very, very personal. And 20 years ago, we moved here, you can only imagine the dreams that we had in our heart to build a great church. And we didn't come here thinking Birmingham necessarily needed another church, it just needed a different kind of church, where people are really going after God. And boy, here we are 20 years later, I was dreaming big, but it was not this, everybody. In fact, can we just stop right now? It would do my heart so good to stop right here and just thank God for what he's done over 20 years. Can we just thank God for that? I mean, I am blown away.
Come on, really thank God. I'm serious, it's a miracle. It really is a miracle, and I'm so grateful that he let me just be a part of it. But we had some distinctives. So, when you're coming, what's cool about planting a church, what's hard about planting a church is there is nobody at all. What's fun about planting a church is you get this blank page. You get to kind of write what you want it to look like. And we had lots of conversations with these 34 people, "What do we want it to look like"? Here we are 20 years later, we have built it on these principles, and here's my... I don't think fear is the right word, maybe concern is a better word. Here's my concern.
And that is that somehow, some way, we'll wander away from some of our distinctives. And I thought, "What would it look like if we had a series where we reminded ourselves of some biblical distinctives of my church"? What separates us, what makes us unique. And I'm not talking about Highlands, I'm talking about the church, some things that are important to our God. And what we did, so we wrote this vision out, we called it "The Church That I See" 'cause it wasn't here yet. It was just the church that I see. It was in our hearts, it was in our minds. And I'm not going to read you the whole vision, but I want to read you one portion of the vision that really speaks to our topic today, and that it goes like this. "That I see a church where the people have found a relationship with God instead of religion," and watch this, "and where living for God is no longer a duty, it's a delight".
We wanted to build a church where people were so excited to get there. We thought if we built the kind of church that God was all about that we couldn't contain the people that would want to come. And here we are, everybody, just... again, I'm blown away of the people that are coming to this church this day. In fact, I'll never forget when in the early years of the church, we were at Mountain Brook High School, and I would, I had learned growing up in church about doing benedictions, the closing prayer. And then what preachers did is after they did the closing prayer, they went out to the door and they shook hands at one of the doors.
In fact, my pastor, he would actually pray the closing prayer as he's walking down the steps and down the aisle so he could be the first one at the door. And so, I used to do that. In the beginning years, now we have so many locations, so many services, but I used to just go stand at one of the doors. But there was this one Sunday, they had a line of people, and they were being, everybody's being really nice. "Oh, good sermon, preacher". "Oh, that was a good sermon, preacher". In fact, by the way, when I got, before Alabama, I'd never been called preacher before, but anyway, here I am, all right. "Good sermon, preacher, good sermon".
Anyway, this lady about six or seven people in the line, and she had this scowl on her face, looking like she wasn't so happy about things. And I saw it ahead of time, and I thought, "I got to get out of this before she gets there 'cause it's not going to be good," right? And I didn't make it. And so, she came up, and she had this scowl, and she says, "Well, I found out something I don't like about this church". And when you hear that as a pastor, well, let me just tell you, as a person, not a pastor, you want to slap her face, that's what you want to do, all right? I'm just letting you know. I'm a human too, I just want y'all to know that. But I'm a pastor, I really can't do that.
And so, I did this fake smile, I said, "Oh. Well, tell me what it is that you don't like, you know". And I was just kind of going to grin and bear it, and she was messing with me and I didn't know it. And she goes, "Well, the one thing I don't like about this church," she says, "I have to wait six days before I can come back". And I went, "Oh, don't you ever do that to me again, all right? That was not nice". And I remember asking her, she was probably in her mid-50s, early 60s, I'll never forget this, and I said, "I want to know why 'cause I want to keep doing it. I want to know why, why was this different? You've been in church your whole life, why was this different"? And this is her answer, she goes, "It was like a breath of fresh air".
I just love it, I couldn't believe it was over already. And I had this dream, we've had this dream in our hearts, what if we made Bible reading like that? What if we made prayer like that? What if we made serving like that? What if we made helping others like that? What if we made worship like that? Like it's not something I have to do, it's not a duty, it's a delight. Like I love church, I grew up that way. Well, after I got saved, I grew up at a church where I didn't really look forward to going. You know, the Bible says, "I was glad when they said unto me, 'Let us go to the house of the Lord.'"
Y'all, I was made when they said unto me, I was sad. I was glad when we got to go to Piccadilly. Come on somebody, right? Y'all remember Piccadilly, anybody? But just what would it look like? And what would we have to do? And here's our topic today, and that is we need a passion. Passion, here's today's topic, my church is passionate. Like this is something we love. Now, the Bible says, in fact Jesus said there would be a generation who would lose their passion. That they honor me with their lips, so they're still showing up, still taking Communion, getting baptized, do maybe they're in their daily Bible readings, but they don't enjoy it. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
They're now just worshipping me in vain 'cause they're just doing what people told them to do, but they're not enjoying it. They're just following human rules, and God never intended that. You need to know that the church was never intended to be this boring, sad, can't wait till it's over. And honestly, this is kind of a little bit of a pet peeve of mine because there's a lot of things in life that we're so excited about doing. Like we love, y'all love, come on, somebody, you love your Saturdays in Bryant-Denny, Stadium, right? Y'all get all cray-cray over, I've seen y'all lose your minds over the spring game. Y'all versus y'all, it's just like wah, go! And then come in on a Sunday just like. That is not what the Bible talks about.
In fact, the Bible says, "Never be lacking in your zeal". It's actually the word "zelos" in the Greek. you know what zelos means in the Greek? White, hot, boiling over. "But keep your spiritual fervor serving the Lord". I'm telling you, Christianity was intended to be one of the most passionate things you do. And the desire, desire... in fact, I'm fighting for it right now. I'm trying to light a... some of y'all, all you've left, all you have left from 2020 is this little, bitty burning ember. And in this service today, I'm going to fan a flame and get that thing lit up again 'cause we cannot go into 2021 dead and sad, come on everybody. We got to step into the new year with on fire kind of a Christianity, I'm just telling you.
I know I'm preaching just a little bit good, but it's even going to get better in just a little bit, all right? I'm not even a preacher, I'm really more of a teacher, but I have, I'm on a mission today to light a fire on the inside of you. You cannot step into this year with the memories and the pain of 2020. No, no, no, we're stepping in with logs on the fire, this thing burning bright, 'cause we have a mission to do in this world, I believe it. So, your God's this way. One of my pet peeves too is how people think about Jesus and how movies, Hollywood, even art and literature portrays Jesus. 'Cause they show him just like not what the Bible describes. They'll always... have you ever watched a movie about Jesus, he's always like malnourished, his cheeks are kind of sunken in.
You'll never see him smiling. You never see him going, "Whoo hoo, whoo hoo". No, he's like, and he's always got his hands in that curveball position, you know, that little, just sad. Y'all, that's not what Jesus looked like. The Bible says kids were piled on him, the disciples pulling kids off of him. Do you know what kind of person you have to be a kid magnet? You ain't going... no, you probably have candy in your robes. Come on somebody, right? He was fun. He was passionate. And this story shows in the temple, people don't like this story. A lot of you don't like this story of Jesus, they like to leave it out. But he went to the temple and they had turned church into something other than what church was intended to be. They were selling stuff, and they were changing money over, and Jesus made a whip.
Talk about passion. He didn't go, "Hmm, y'all stop please". No, no, he got himself a whip. And he went through, he chased them out of the temple. He was fired up. He drove off the sheep and the cattle, scattered the tables, knocking over tables, and just causing a ruckus over what he wanted church to look like. And then he went over to the people who sold doves, he said, "Get these out of here. We're not going to act like that". Like, he's probably trying to light a little fire on the inside of them. "You turned my Father's house into a marketplace". And his disciples were going, "Oh my goodness". They were off to the side, but they remembered a prophecy that's in Psalm 69 that says, "The passion for God's house consumes me". They just saw his passion.
I want to be a church, I don't care if we're 20 years old or not, I want to be a church that never loses our passions, everybody. "I was glad when they said unto me, 'Let's go to the house of the Lord.'" Yeah, I didn't come today 'cause I didn't have anything else to do. No, no, no, this is the priority of my week. I love serving God. Can I get an amen out of anybody out there today? So, here's what I did. I actually did a Bible study. I rarely, by the way, give you points in sermons that are just my own thoughts. I normally just go study Scriptures. And what I did is I just researched the word "zeal" or "zelos" or "passion".
And there were four things in Scripture that God talks about a lot, the Bible talks about a lot when it comes to our passions, what we should be passionate about. What's so funny about these four is these are the four things that we can become very lukewarm with very easily. And the first one's a great example because throughout the Bible when it talks about prayer, the Bible says, "No, no, prayer is to be passionate". Then when you think about prayer, for most people when you think about prayer, it's like they like heads go down, voices go down, you maybe kneel on the ground. There's nothing wrong with kneeling, but then you get real quiet. And that's not what the Bible describes as prayer.
In fact, in the book of Acts, it says they raised their voices together in prayer. The place where they were praying was shaken. I mean, it was an exciting place. It would've been deafening like one of your football stadiums on a Saturday. That's what prayer was like in the Bible. It wasn't just this like, "Now I lay me down to sleep. In fact, I'm going to sleep right now myself". You know, just no, that's not what it looked like. And in fact, Jesus said, "I want church to be a house of prayer".
In the same Scripture, in the book of Matthew, the clearing of the temple, this detail is added that, "My house will be called a house of prayer". But the Bible describes it as fervent. The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much, which is the antithesis of that would be then if you're not fervent, it might not avail much, it might not even work. And I'm just encouraging you go after God in your prayer. In fact, if you come tomorrow, you're going to see New Testament prayer. It's going to be loud in here. You're going to hear thousands of voices raised as we seek our God and declare our dependence upon him, and watch the difference it makes.
I grew up in church and I love my church, by the way, growing up in, but it was boring. I'm just going to let you all know it was so... and we had a prayer, you know, prayer was real boring. I'd never know what to say. And our Sunday school class always wanted to do that circle prayer. Y'all ever done circle prayer? That's like when you grab hands and then the teacher says, "Okay, okay, we're all going to pray". And you're already nervous. You're like sweating beads like, "I don't know what to say, and I'm going to say it wrong". And you feel like you got to go all King James and thee, thou, art. And you know, you just don't know what to do. I will just tell you if you ever get in one of those circle prayers, they do that, don't be the last person. 'Cause all the material is going to get used up before it gets to you, it happens.
So, I'm there, you know, and like, "Ah man, I was so going to do that. And oh, I was going to say that too". You know, so you don't... in fact, one time, I got, they used all my material, so when the person squeezed my hand, I would just squeeze, squeeze, and they'd just skip me, just go on around. Or they'll do, or have you ever done this, when they go like, "Hey, does anybody have any prayer requests"? And somebody raised their hands. "Yes, what is it"? He goes, "It's unspoken". It's unspoken? "Yeah, I have it unspoken". That's your problem, it needs to get spoke. Come on somebody, right? I mean, I'm serious, I'm serious. We need to be people who go after God in prayer. Can I hear a good amen, everybody?
Like let, that's why, by the way, I'm still, I'm begging you to take that prayer card seriously that we gave you today. And just jot down a prayer and it works, it works and we declare our dependence upon God. But what do you do if your prayer fire has died out? Let me give you a little tip and we'll move onto the second thing. And that is make prayer, this is our rally cry. To make prayer our first response, not our last resort. Meaning when something happens, you don't go like, "Well, we tried everything. I guess all we can do now is pray". No, no, no, why not start there? How about the first time you hear, "You know what? Let's just pray about that". "Before we even attempt any human efforts, why don't we give it to God and trust God for it and believe God for it in Jesus's name"?
And here's the second one. All throughout Scripture when you read the Word, read the Bible, you'll see passion for praise and worship. So, this is one of our distinctives. A lot of you don't know this, but I actually led the worship the first four years of this church. And it's not because I'm the best musician, I'm not. Actually, I'm very, very talented on the piano, I can play. And I grew up praying classical music and I grew up leading worship, the instrumental part of worship in churches for 30 years before I ever started this church. This is what I've done. In fact, so the first four years of this church, I led the worship for only one reason. It's because I wanted to show people what worship actually looked like.
I'm telling y'all, it was like pushing a string uphill. It was one of the most difficult things, I mean pushing a string uphill with your nose. It was one of the most difficult things in the world. 'Cause people just had been trained into traditional, low-key, conservative, "I'm not getting excited". It's almost improper if I do. No, no, no, no, that's not at all what the Bible says. In fact, the biggest book of your Bible, the Psalms, 150 chapters are some of the most demonstrative verses in the Bible. "Clap your hands, all you people. Shout unto God with a voice of triumph". And I refuse to let our worship get all conservative and low key. And man, that doesn't do anything but protect our egos when we do that. And it's not even about us, it's about God.
Jesus said, "If you're going to love me, love me with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, all your strength". Are y'all hearing me today, everybody? And I tell you, here we are 20 years old, and I just don't want us to just like, "Well, I don't think I like that song. Well, I like that song. Well, I don't like that song". No, it's not even about us. And we worship our God because he's worthy of praise. And by the way, I'm looking at some of y'all looking at me like, "Are you serious, dude"? Yes, I am very serious. In fact, I'm going to double dog dare some of y'all 'cause you've just kind of like, "This is my flow right here".
Some of y'all, the only freedom you got is just in your foot, this is all you got. It needs to work its way on up a little bit. And just one of these days, one of these days, you're going to be there like, "Yeah, this is my Sunday. Da da da da, da da da, ha ho da da". I'm telling you, y'all need to let it go and give God the same kind of praise you would do on a Saturday, you need to give God that kind of praise on a Sunday. I mean it, I'm serious. Come on, praise the Lord, O my soul. And all my inmost being, praise his holy name. That dude is fired up today. It's going to get worse next Sunday, y'all. I've decided I am going to lead this church at the beginning of this year back to the heart of God, back to the values of God, back to the way the Bible describes things. We're going to look like the Bible, the church in the Bible, I'm just telling you.
One of my heroes in Scripture is King David. I mean, the dude was a passionate worshiper, and by the way had the greatest favor of God. It's the only person in the Bible that God says, "My covenant will be with you everlasting, it will always, Jerusalem will always be the city of David". He honored him for one reason. David was the biggest mess up in the world, but he was passionate about God. And he loved the Ark of the Covenant because that represented the presence of God. And the Ark of the Covenant got stolen. And when they recovered it, they were 8 miles outside of Jerusalem.
They finally got it back and he is so fired up 'cause he got God's presence back that they just took six steps and said, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, stop, stop, stop, stop. We have to thank God right now". And they killed, they made a sacrifice and worshiped God. And the Bible says every 6 steps for 8 miles, that's 14,000 steps, that's 2,347 sacrifices over 8 miles, where they just said, "Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop. We have to thank our God". And he just was so passionate about the presence and the power of God and worshiping God in that kind of way. And the Bible says that when he got back home, his wife Michal, daughter of Saul, came out and met him and she said, "You embarrassed me today. How the king has," and she said sarcastically, "distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls like any vulgar fellow would".
And David said to Michal, "I didn't do that for you. It was before the Lord who chose me. I'm so grateful that I'm just in this position rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord's people". He says, "I will celebrate before the Lord. In fact, honey, you ain't seen nothing yet". And I'm telling you, we're starting 2021 with a group of people who says, "Oh, no, no, you thought the first 20 years we were passionate? You haven't seen nothing yet".
Come on, give God a praise today. That's not good enough, give him what he really deserves. I mean, we ought to praise our God, that's the kind of church we're going to be. I'm telling you. I'm serious. Come on, clap your hands, all you people. Shout unto God with a voice of triumph. He's worthy of our praise, he's worthy of our praise. He's worthy of it. Some people say, "Whoo, y'all just a bunch of fanatics over there". That's right, guilty as charged. If you're going to be fanatical about anything, why not God? I'm not going to praise a bunch of 19 year olds who don't even know me and be conservative with the God who made me. I'm not going to do it.
Y'all, Tammy and I lived one mile from the Air Force Academy. Every day, we came outside and we saw these jets. And it was one of the most fun places to live. They're jumping out of airplanes, B1 bombers, it was fantastic. And I read a story how in North Carolina, there's an air force base there called Camp Lejeune if I'm pronouncing it correctly. The problem is the air force base is an F16 air force base, it's right on the interstate. So, when they take off, they take off over the interstate, well, they hit that sonic boom or light that afterburner, and it freaks people out, and they were having accidents on the interstate 'cause it was so loud as they crossed over the interstate.
So, they put up a billboard to warn people, "Hey, you're getting ready to hear something, it's going to be loud. You got to get yourself ready". But they thought they'd put it in a patriotic kind of a way, and so they put on the billboard, you can go see it to this day, you can go google this to see this. And the sign says on the interstate, "Pardon our noise, it's the sound of freedom". And that's how I feel for anybody who, like, roll their eyes at us being excited about our God. Pardon my noise. You're looking at a guy who was all bound up, and full of sin, and going to hell. And my God saved me, he changed me. He healed me, it changed my life. Pardon my noise, this is the sound of someone who has been set free.
And I'm just wondering if there's anybody else here in this church today who's been set free and want you just to say, "I'm so sorry, I'm just so sorry, I just can't help it. I can't help it". Go sit down. I'm just, I got three minutes to do the last two points, all right? 'Cause it took so long to blow on y'all, but y'all finally... I see a flame out there right now, it's happening. But we're going to serve our God. Here's a great verse, we don't have time to teach you, but it's really good. And how do you keep praise where it should be? We don't give him what we feel, we give him what he deserves. "I don't like that song. I don't think I feel like it. I'm not loud like that".
But it's not your choice. He didn't say, "If you feel like it, shout unto God with the voice of triumph". He said, "Clap your hands. All ye people shout unto..." That's not my choice. We worshiping God the way that God wants to be worshiped. Can I get a better amen, someone? All right, now I got two minutes to give you the last two. I might have to teach this on Wednesday night. By the way, I'm going to teach on Wednesday night. I'm going to lead prayer tomorrow morning, Tuesday morning, and I'm going to teach on Wednesday night 'cause I just got stuff, it's inside of me for all of us this year.
We're going to start this year off, y'all, it's going to be 2021, watch out, here we come, I'm telling you. There's a consistent pattern in Scripture that God honors zeal and passion for people who, like, stand for the honor of God. Now purity, I'm not talking about the kind of purity like where you're perfect. It's just where you love it. The Bible says, "Hate what is evil, cling to what is good". Doesn't mean you always get it right, but we're not going to be a group of people who follow the world's patterns.
Now, I'm seeing a generation going into more error and pulling us, and mocking the church for our stances and what the Bible says. We're not going there. I don't know what they're going to do to us, but we are going to stand, we're not going to be ugly about it, but we're going to stand firm in our beliefs. We're going to have a passion for the things of God that are pure. And if you'd have heard this story, it was a phenomenal one. And so was this one, but we don't have time for that. But these are two people in the Old Testament who just even though they were having sex out of marriage in the building, in the church building, mocking God, and one of them just drove a spear between them, Phinehas.
And God says, "This is a person who has a zeal for my purity, he has upheld the honor of my name". And we're going to... y'all, we are not following the world's whatever. We're standing, if God's Word says it, it endures forever. Are y'all listening to me, everybody? We're going to talk about it this year. But we're going to be a voice, not an echo. We're not following the world's way, we're following God's way. And here's the last one, this is probably this one would be number one on God's list, this fourth area of passion, and that is the passion for people. We never believed we should be a church just so we'd have a place to go to church. That we would follow the passions of God in the fact that he's not in love with just us. He so loves the world. He doesn't even love the world, he so loves it, so loves it.
And anything that God is passionate about, we need to be passionate about. We need to be people who say, "You know what? I am going to do whatever it takes". In fact, the way I like to say it is we will do anything short of sin to reach as many people as we can. This church is way big, it was big enough for me probably in the second or third year. The easiest for me would to have about 20 staff, two services, one location. That's best for me. It's not about me. We're not doing this for our, 117 Christmas services wasn't best for me. We do everything, we're going to continue to do whatever it takes.
This year, y'all, we just figured out a way to do less for us and more for others, and gave a way outside of this building, nothing's for ourselves, gave away over $15 million to the hurting, to the poor, to the helpless, to those that have never heard, yeah, that was your legacy offering, that's amazing. 25,997 people got saved in 2020, just last year, 25,000. Why? 'Cause God so loves the world. And I'd love to have time to teach this too, but I don't have time. But we have to remember, how do you keep the passion for people? Remember that a life not lived for others is just not a life. In fact, look at my eyes, if you're discouraged, bored, hurting, you probably have gotten too much focused on yourself.
"But no, but my situation is real, PC". I know, but our life's not about us. The more you give your life for others, the more you'll find life. It's the truth, it's the truth. So, what do we do? Well, we find ourselves starting a new year a lot of times, we're trying to resolution ourself into some kind of something. And for a lot of years, you're so beat up and tired, and honestly you've tried so many resolutions, you didn't even make one this year. And you found there's something there, but it's not much. For some of you, the fire's gone totally out. There's just nothing there. And God doesn't go, "Well, that's okay, I still love you". He doesn't. In fact, he holds it against you.
This is the last thing Jesus says in the Bible. He confronts the church in Revelation 2:3, and this is the first confrontation he makes, "I have this against you, you've lost your first love. You're not where you should be". But he doesn't say, "So, that's it, I'm done with you". No, he gives you that chance to come back, to return. And he tells you how. "Consider how far you have fallen". So, think about it. Think about the time you loved prayer more, purity more, praise and worship more, people more, and it just died. He said, "Just consider it, think about it, remember". One translation says, "Remember how far you've fallen".
So, think about it, why don't you think about it right now? And then he just says, "Repent, turn around". That's it, it's the most positive word in the Bible, just turn around. Isn't that awesome that he just always gives you that chance. No matter how far you've gone or how far it's died out, he always gives you that chance. That's our God, I love him so much. Just do the things you did first, but then there's a warning, he finishes it with a warning. "But if you don't, if you ignore this today, you have the chance of a burning out totally". He says, "I'll remove that lampstand, that passionate fire from you". And you just don't want to go there.
So, close your eyes, and if you're here today and you've let that fire go out, your passion died, I'm going to ask you to physically respond to this prayer. So, if your life is not where it should be, I don't care how long you've known the Lord or if you've never become a Christian, you need to start this year off saying, "I've got to get the fire back. I've got to get my passion back. I need to recommit my life to Christ. It's time. It's time". I'm not going to make you stand up or walk down to the front, but I am in a minute going to ask you to raise your hand. So, just go ahead and decide if that's you. And my recommendation is be bold. Just if God's inviting you back, then come back.
If you want to be included in this prayer, I want to invite the campus pastors to join me. Pastor Blake, you can join me. You ready, you ready? I need to come back. I'm not where I should be and I need to commit my life to Christ. Slip your hand up right now, I want to be in this prayer. Yep, yep, yep, all over this room, all over this room, amen. Just lift it, just be bold. Be bold. It's a beautiful sight, it's a beautiful sight. Pastor Blake, you're the campus pastor here, and all the other campus pastors are leading their rooms now. I want you to lead them into this prayer of coming back to God.
Pastor Blake: I'm so proud of every one of you that has raised your hand right now. And heads are bowed, eyes are still closed. I want to lead you in that simple prayer of commitment. I'm telling you, this is awesome. And this is going to be the best year of your life if it's the best year of your life spiritually. So, even if you didn't raise your hand, but you know this is your moment, right there where you are, just whisper these words to God. Say:
God, today I give you my life. I need Jesus. I commit my life to you, and I ask you to light a fire in my heart so that I go into this year passionate for you. I want a real relationship. I don't just want to go to church, I don't just want to go through the motions, I want to know you. And so, right now, I give you my life. I ask you to forgive me of sin, my past. Anything in my life that doesn't honor you, I give it to you right now, and I receive your forgiveness. And I believe that in this moment, you're making me brand-new. I commit all that I have and all that I am to you. And I believe, Jesus, that you gave your life for me, you rose again, and now you live in my heart. Thank you for saving me. Thank you for changing me. I really believe I'm never going to be the same again and I'm never going to look back. Finish your prayer with this little statement: The best way that I know how this year and moving forward, I'm going to love you, I'm going to serve you, and I'm going to know you. In Jesus's name I pray, amen.